SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Federal inmates have sued officials who run a Utah jail, alleging a failure to adequately protect them from the coronavirus.
Six people charged with federal crimes and held at Weber County Jail filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Friday, asking for more inmates be released to home confinement and additional health measures, such as mandating masks and providing hygiene supplies.
The lawsuit comes as the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah and other groups have protested the Ogden jail's handling of an outbreak that's led 114 inmates to test positive for COVID-19.
The lawsuit says county officials “are aware of the grave dangers posed by COVID-19 and have failed to implement measures to comply with their constitutional obligations to those in their custody.”
Attorneys representing the inmates said that the jail had only been quarantining newcomers for an average of three days before moving them to the general population and that many inmates did not receive sufficient medical care.
In a statement Friday that didn’t mention the lawsuit, the Weber County Sheriff’s Office said the jail has taken “extreme measures” to contain the outbreak since the first positive case on June 21.
The agency said it's increased sanitation efforts and limited the jail population. Masks are mandatory for staff, visitors and contractors. Inmates are “highly encouraged” to wear them.
The lawsuit names Weber County Sheriff Ryan Arbon and Matt Harris, the U.S. marshal in Utah.
The U.S. Marshals Service declined to comment. The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.
Sophia Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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